The Ladette, indeed

Here’s another shout out for a great piece on Tracey Emin from the Times Online. Emin is having her first show in London in four years which, by design, should incite the usual contentiousness since it is an animation of a woman masturbating. Tracey is ready for the onslaught. “‘They’ll hate it!’ she laughs, resignedly. She loves a bit of mischief.”

Emin’s new show is called Those Who Suffer Love. She calls the film “My ‘Up yours!’ to the recession. It’s sad, but also quite sexy. It’s about, where does love go? Where does it disappear to? It’s not crude. It’s quite poetic.”

Emin is larger than life, particularly in Britain. There is much to admire about her—her pluck, her energy, her confrontational directness, her feminist sensibilities. She’s raucous and fierce, and I am always curious to see what she will come up with next. Her artistic career has been blindingly successful, something I celebrate with particular pleasure when the artist in question is a woman. Let’s face it, it’s been tough slogging for the art gals for a long time.

I had a few surprises in Kathy Brewis’ piece. One was how unpretentious and self-effacing Emin comes across. She’s fierce but gleefully kindhearted, this woman. The second was how simpatico I felt with her self-described approach to art. Emin states that she “makes more work about God than about sex,” a line that I loved reading.

Here’s a few more excerpts from the article by Brewis:

Like Frida Kahlo and Louise Bourgeois, Emin makes art from her personal experiences, and this me-me-me-ness is one of the reasons some people react badly. The naked photographs — of herself. The “rude” drawings — of herself. The dirty, crumpled sheets on the bed — her own. The book — writings about herself, obviously. Yet she claims a universality in her themes of love, loss, good sex, bad sex. She is keen to channel her ego — which even well-wishers describe as huge — into something of worth. “I know I’m a sociopath, but I want to use it for good things.”

She has what Jeanette Winterson calls “a total and reckless commitment to herself”. In her studio, or rather one of her studios (this one is dry crafts — sewing, drawing; there’s another, for painting), there’s a picture of her with the legend “The boss” above it, and this is no joke. What Tracey wants, Tracey gets.


The Sunday Times art critic Waldemar Januszczak calls her “a heroine”. “For 20,000 years, women have found it remarkably difficult to be taken seriously as artists. Tracey represents a voice that had never been heard in art before — the mouthy urban woman. The ladette. The girl from Tesco. Art was intent on ignoring these streetwise female upstarts; it’s only now that they have managed to get themselves heard. And Tracey is the loudest and fiercest of them.”


She says she “makes more work about God than about sex”, and that, curiously, one of the few interviewers who really understood what she was trying to convey was from a religious journal, and it was reprinted in the Church Times. She talks of magic and mysticism, some of this a little girl’s yearning for reality to be different and some of it a mature spiritual quest. She’s three weeks behind schedule with the work for the new show, and says she needs the pressure to be pushed to an extreme, to produce something that isn’t just “fodder — I don’t want to just churn it out”.

(© The Artist and Courtesy of Jay Joplin/White Cube. Happy Retouching)